The Science of the Winter Blues: Seasonal Depression

Hey there wonder warriors! It’s the week after Halloween, the scariest
time of the year. Or is it? See, I find November to be even scarier. And not just because we’re out of candy. It’s also the gateway into the seemingly eternal
darkness of winter. The days get shorter and colder. And as the temperature drops, so will many of
our moods and energy levels. Some people call this the “winter blues,”
but what’s really going on here? We’ve all heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder
now is it actually a real thing? Oh very much so. Seasonal Depression is defined by its timing;
it tends to start in the fall, when we change the clocks, you’ll feel much worse, you’ll
feel tired, sluggish, and you won’t be able to think as clearly. As many as 15-20% of Canadians probably have
some form of it. This is an insidious kind of depression that
really creeps up on you and get this, it is actually quite different from general depression. So for most forms of depression, people will
tend to lose weight, lose appetite, not be able to sleep and in Seasonal Depression,
it’s quite the opposite. So patients will crave carbohydrates and fats,
they’ll often gain a lot of weight and they’ll often sleep a lot more. Okay so what’s really going on behind the
scenes to cause seasonal depression? The problem is that light is the trigger. And it’s a form of depression that seems
to be driven by light availability. If you think about it, light and dark cycles
have been around since the beginning of time. And all of biology really organizes around light
and dark cycles. These internal cycles are sometimes called
circadian rhythms and they govern a lot of our basic biology. Well we take it for granted, but our basic
ability to function and our whole sleep wake cycle is of course driven by light. Light is very unreliable in the winter time. So even more reason to be afraid of the dark. Luckily there are a few things we can arm
ourselves with in the fight against SAD. So this is a typical light therapy unit. And what the light does essentially is it
fools your brain into thinking it’s now a spring or summer morning. The experts say it’s the sun
at sunrise that synchronizes our internal bodily clocks, so in absence of that sun, we
can cheat it. It’s sort of like a car on a cold day, it
takes a while to get the engine going and humans are very similar in many ways. A typical treatment would be a half an hour
in the morning, preferably starting before 8 o’clock. Remember the light you want should be very
bright, about 5000 lux hours, or about what the sun gives you at sunrise. And this light needs to go through your eyes,
so it should be UV-protected! Which gives you even more reason to stay no
to tanning beds. If you have any questions, post them in the
comment section below, and subscribe to this channel for for videos just like it, as I
continue to wonder about the science of depression. Until next time!

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